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Hello dear readers,

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for a rant. There’s been a lot about bullying in the news lately. My friend Cat Connor raised the subject in her blog this week, and she mentioned teasing as one of the forms of bullying.

I’ve always had a problem with teasing. Any man I’ve dated has found this out, sooner or later. Has anyone ever felt good about being the subject of teasing? Probably not. As far as I’m concerned, “teasing” is just a way of saying mean things about another person under the guise of being playful or funny.

I come from a long line of teasers. Many people in my extended family–especially my beloved grandmother, who had a wicked tongue–would rib others about their weight, hairstyles, figures, significant others, driving ability–you name it. If you were the target, you were expected to laugh it off. Suppose it struck too painful a nerve, and you got defensive? Well, you could expect the usual response:

I was just teasing.

In other words, it’s your fault that you can’t take a joke. But is teasing ever really a joke? To my way of thinking, it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who feels like being nasty.

A lot of bullying starts with “teasing”. I’m sure my friend in high school didn’t find it too funny when the boys mooed at her, but they were just teasing. I didn’t like it when my father made disparaging comments about my legs when I was a teenager, but he was just teasing. And teasing definitely made Seth Walsh’s life a living hell.

What do you think, dear readers? Have you been the target of teasing? Is there ever a case when you think teasing is okay?

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  1. Mystic_Mom

    Teasing can be cultural – many aboriginal cultures use it to enforce community mores and norms. This is not meant to be cruel or abusive but corrective and is most often followed by loving laughter.

    The abusive teasing that is another form of bullying is not something that is EVER okay. When your words hurt another person, and you know it and you don’t stop or you know it and keep going because you like to hurt – that is abuse. Teasing when it hurts someone so deeply that life isn’t worth living isn’t teasing or bullying alone – it is systemic abuse aimed at destroying someone’s self esteem and crippling them.

    Good for you for your rant! I dispise bullies and teasing when it hurts, especially when someone tries to couch it in “I’m just teasing”.

    I think you’ve inspired me to do a follow up rant on Scarred Seeker!

  2. Anonymous

    Abusive teasing is never,ever okay. And many of us have suffered because of it ):

  3. Kim

    I think there are varying degrees of teasing and absolutely bully-teasing is not acceptable. I tell this to my kids all the time when they “pester” each other. That any verbal bugging that causes the other person to say STOP must be stopped. Teasing about weight, appearance, intelligence, percieved sexual orientation in a negative way is wrong. People who tease cruelly probably are being teased cruely by someone else and it is often learned behaviour. Unfortunately the people who bully in this way are often very much lack self awareness. All they feel is the rush of making someone feel bad and that feels good to them. Sad as it is.

    There is gentle teasing too. Funny teasing. Like you make a typo and it leads to a funny unitended interpretation of what you wrote or an unintentional double entendre and someone points it out. I like to tease people like this. Or if someone brags about a fast bike sprint when they had the wind behind them — They should be mocked a little. Is that still teasing or is it just banter between friends?

    There is a line though and everyones line might be in a different place.

  4. kungfusinger

    My husband and I tease each other constantly. We do not pick on each other’s looks. We do not pick on subjects we know are touchy. We never say anything particularly hurtful.

    We do, however pick on each other’s tongue slips: For example, I was worrying a lot about how my family would react when I re-connected with my love, after he had broken my heart two years earlier. One day I said to him “My mother says I over-analyze things too much, which I think you can take two ways. The first…” At this point, my love was splitting a gut laughing. I still haven’t lived that down five years later.

    We use teasing as a way to reinforce our love for each other. We use it to remind each other of the important things in life, or to keep us grounded. Teasing is commonly laced with double entendre or innuendo.

    If ever a line is crossed and feelings are hurt, the offending party is quick to apologise (on both sides). The apology usually sounds something like, “I was only teasing but I can see that touched a nerve, so I am sorry I said it.” After that the teasing does not stray to that topic again unless the offended party indicates it is OK.

    My husband is always saying “Oh, my love, If I didn’t tease you so much, you’d think I didn’t love you.” It works for us, and it feels good for us. No harm is ever intended, and very little is ever done. I have been in relationships where the opposite was true, and in those cases the teasing hurt.

    In my oppinion, teasing is like sex. It is only ever OK when it is consenting on both ends, and no harm is meant to the other party. Otherwise, it kind of feels more like emotional rape.

  5. Ev Bishop

    I think it all depends on the kind of teasing, the teasee, and the teaser (you can tease me about that wishy-washy answer! :D), but in general, I agree with you. It’s like I tell my son (constantly these days, it seems), everyone has people to tease them (kindly, if they’re _lucky_). Not enough people have enough people to say kind, supportive, encouraging things!

  6. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Very insightful.

    @ Shanyn – funny you mention that. I recently read the memoirs of a residential school survivor, and he talked about the tradition of teasing in his community. You’re right – the sentiment behind it is very different. Still, I’m not sure anyone I know would want to be called “chubby” (as he called his cousin), friendly or otherwise! 🙂

    @ Kim – agreed. I guess, to know if something is banter between friends or something inappropriate, the best thing to do is turn the situation around and ask how you’d feel if you were the recipient.

    @ kungfusinger – very powerful. Thanks for sharing. Of course, you’re married to one of the kindest men in the world. I can’t see him ever saying anything mean-spirited. I’ve known him forever, and I’ve never known anything nasty to come out of his mouth. You paint a lovely description of good-natured teasing in a relationship.

    @ Ev – welcome back! Always good to see you here. And what you say is so true. There will always be people who will knock us down. Rare is the one who will pick us up. You’re a good mom, and your son will learn from your example.


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